Newt Gingrich has taken the lead in PPP's national polling. He's at 28% to 25% for Herman Cain and 18% for Mitt Romney. The rest of the Republican field is increasingly looking like a bunch of also rans: Rick Perry is at 6%, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul at 5%, Jon Huntsman at 3%, and Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum each at 1%.
Compared to a month ago Gingrich is up 13 points, while Cain has dropped by 5 points and Romney has gone down by 4. Although a fair amount of skepticism remains about the recent allegations against Cain there is no doubt they are taking a toll on his image- his net favorability is down 25 points over the last month from +51 (66/15) to only +26 (57/31). What is perhaps a little more surprising is that Romney's favorability is at a 6 month low in our polling too with only 48% of voters seeing him favorably to 39% with a negative opinion.
Gingrich's lead caps an amazing comeback he's made over the last 5 months. In June his favorability nationally with Republican voters plummeted all the way to 36/49. Now he's at 68/23, representing a 58 point improvement in his spread since then. As recently as August Gingrich was mired in single digits at 7%, and even in September he was at just 10%. He's climbed 18 points in less than 2 months.
There's reason to think that if Cain continues to fade, Gingrich will continue to gain. Among Cain's supporters 73% have a favorable opinion of Gingrich to only 21% with a negative one. That compares to a 33/55 spread for Romney with Cain voters and a 32/53 one for Perry. They like Gingrich a whole lot more than they do the other serious candidates in the race.
Cain's base of strength continues to be with Tea Party voters, where he gets 33% to 31% for Gingrich, and only 11% for Romney. This is where you can really see that Gingrich will be the beneficiary if Cain continues to implode- Gingrich's favorability with Tea Partiers is 81/14. Romney's is 43/45. There's a lot of room for Gingrich to build up support with that key group of Republican voters.
Cain's continuing to benefit from doubts about whether the allegations against him are true- 54% of primary voters think they are 'mostly false' to only 24 who believe they are 'mostly true.' Painting himself as a victim of the media is proving to be a good strategy for Cain so far- 61% think it has been 'mostly unfair' to him compared to 26% who say it has been 'mostly fair.' Only 26% of Republicans say they have a more negative opinion of him now than before the accusations surfaced, and just 27% think he should drop out of the race. All of that's fine but here's the bottom line- Cain's favorability numbers are declining and so is his support. If those trends continue he will fade as a candidate.
The other Republican coming off a bad week is Rick Perry and his numbers have continued on their downward trajectory. Just 35% of GOP primary voters see him positively to 49% with a negative opinion. That's a 18 point drop compared to a month ago when he was at 42/38. And he's gone from 14% to 6% in the horse race, a bigger decline than Cain's.
If there's any sign of hope for Perry and the other non-Gingrich/Cain/Romney voters it might be the rise of Gingrich. Gingrich has gained 18 points in only 2 months, suggesting that someone else might be capable of gaining 18 points in the 2 months before Iowa as well. And Perry's national favorability of 35/49 is pretty much identical to the 36/49 Gingrich had in June- Newt obviously came back and perhaps Perry can as well, although there's no doubt the clock is ticking.
As for Romney he has not shown any ability to take advantage of the trouble his fellow candidates keep getting themselves into. In July Romney was at 20%, in August at 20%, in September at 18%, October at 22%, and now in November at 18%. He's been at 20 +/-2% for the last five months in our polling. While the flavor of the month has gone from Trump to Bachmann to Perry to Cain to Gingrich, Romney hasn't had a turn in that seat- he can only hope that his chance in that role will come in January, which is certainly the best time to have it.
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